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Coaching–It’s Not About Giving The “Answer”

by David Brock on March 13th, 2012

Coaching is critical to improving performance–regardless the role we are in.  Professional athletes rely on coaches to improve their performance, to help them achieve things they hadn’t been able to do before.  Musicians, actors, speakers all rely on coaches.  Listen to their conversations, though.  They are different than we might imagine.  These are people who are top performers, they aren’t looking for “the answer.”  At their level of performance, the answers don’t exist–the coaching ends up being a process of discovery–both on the part of the coachee and the coach.  They learn and grow together.

We talk about coaching in business as though it’s a natural thing—but good coaching is really pretty rare.  Most coaching ends up being disguised giving/seeking answers.

In a deal review, a manager listens impatiently—knowing what needs to be done to get the deal done.  After the sales person finishes, the manager says–“You need to do this and that.  Call on these people and present this….”  In a pipeline review, it’s “Some deals are stalling, you should look at this and that.  You need to get more into your pipeline, you should increase your prospecting activities……” 

Managers have all the answers.  We are so used to this kind of coaching, we come to think of this as the norm.  We do what our managers tell us, then we go back, review the outcomes, go back and do it all over again.  Pretty soon, we come to rely on our managers to help us come up with the next steps.  Our managers feel good, needed, and important. 

But this isn’t effective coaching.  Effective coaching is about growth–it’s about discovery.  Effective coaching challenges each of us to look at things differently, to think about new approaches.  Effective coaching increases our independence–we develop new capabilities to assess our strategies, to determine next steps.  We no longer need to go back to our managers for instructions on next steps.  We have the tools and capabilities to think about what we should be doing.

Effective coaching stretches the manager–it requires growth and discovery for the manager.  As we develop the capabilities of our people, as they become increasingly independent, we need to step up our own game.  How do we stretch our people (and ourselves) even further?  What’s the next step in their development?

Effective coaching is not about giving the answers–there’s no growth in that.  Effective coaching is about discovery and growth for both the coach and the coachee.

  • As a coach, are you looking to help your people think, discover, and grow?  Or are you giving them the “answers?”
  • As a coachee, are you looking to develop your capabilities?  To move your game to a higher level?  Or are you looking for the “answers?”

The difference is important–for both the coach and the coachee.

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  1. Great article. As I read it, I thought of the lifetime coaches some of us are privileged to have. About a week ago, I contributed to an ongoing “International Blogathon”. Parents can be wonderful coaches, if they make the time and choose to be involved.

    “A primary function of leadership is to develop culture” by @KimunyaMugo via @toddbnielsen

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